- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2011


America is in a steep decline because of the Obama administration’s anti-business policies, which have blocked economic growth. From the beginning of his presidency, Barack Obama’s retro-New Deal policies were all about expanding federal spending, programs and taxes at the expense of the private sector and the labor force, both of which have shrunk under his remedial management.

The result, as we head into the Labor Day weekend, is a shrinking labor force, stalled economic growth, deepening debt and a White House that is out of substantive ideas on how to pull our country out of its economic nose dive.

The Commerce Department reported last week that the economy was growing at a feeble 1 percent in the second quarter and has all but stopped growing. This week, the Conference Board, a research group, said its Consumer Confidence Index dropped in August to its lowest level since April 2009, falling 15 points to 44.5.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the percentage of 16-to-24-year-old workers with a job declined to 48.8 percent in July, the lowest rate for that month since the BLS has been collecting such data.

Meantime, forecasters expect the Labor Department’s report this Friday to show that just 67,000 jobs were created in August, signaling that unemployment will remain high throughout Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Americans are justifiably pessimistic about the economy, fearing that it’s not going to get better anytime soon and, indeed, likely will get worse in the months ahead as the White House vainly struggles to patch together a new jobs agenda to rescue a president whose job-approval poll numbers have sunk to new lows.

Mr. Obama says he will soon offer the country a new plan to turn the economy around. But The Washington Post reported Tuesday that “behind the scenes Obama and top aides had yet to reach agreement on the major tenets of that plan, and it remained unclear whether the president was looking for narrower ideas with a realistic chance of passing the Republican-led House or more sweeping stimulus proposals that would excite his liberal base and draw contrasts with the GOP.”

In other words, the president must choose between accepting some GOP ideas that will win the support of Republicans or offering a campaign-driven plan that will appeal to his party’s disenchanted left but stand little or no chance of passing a divided Congress. Either way, this is a confused administration that not only has lost its way but doesn’t have a compass.

American voters intuitively sense this. The Gallup Poll reported Tuesday that just 38 percent of the voters it surveyed said they approved of the job Mr. Obama is doing. A 55 percent majority disapprove of his presidency.

Let’s be very clear who is to blame for this mess. It isn’t former President George W. Bush. It isn’t ATMs taking away bank-teller jobs, as Mr. Obama suggested earlier this summer, along with a rash of other excuses. It isn’t Wall Street, where stocks have been pounded over the course of the past three years. It’s Mr. Obama’s policies that have made the economy weaker, smaller and more vulnerable to years of decline.

“Jobs creation remains weak, because temporary tax cuts, stimulus spending, large federal deficits, price-raising health-care mandates, and tighter but ineffective business regulations do not address, and indeed exacerbate, the permanent structural problems holding back dynamic growth and jobs creation,” writes University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici.

“Until this policy direction is altered, the economy will continue to grow slowly or slip into recession, unemployment will rise, living standards will fall, and American standing in the global economy will decline,” Mr. Morici says.

What we’re seeing, he adds, is “an American policy of decline by design.”

Mr. Obama came into office full of promises, with a bag full of dubious remedies that were based on the liberal notion that we could just spend and tax ourselves into prosperity. But after nearly three years of promises, Mr. Obama has failed to deliver and has lost his credibility. A Pew Research Center poll reports that nearly half of all Americans surveyed do not believe he is a strong leader, while 50 percent do not think he can get things done.

That inability to move an agenda was driven home this past week when it was reported that the three trade export deals negotiated by Mr. Bush that Mr. Obama has been urging Congress to pass were never officially sent to Capitol Hill. Instead, Mr. Obama has been on the campaign trail, blaming the Republicans for holding up the trade agreements, when there is strong GOP support for all three.

Since the self-evident failure of his $825 billion jobs stimulus plan, Mr. Obama has been hoping that either the economy would heal itself or the Federal Reserve would come to his rescue.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke put that notion to rest last week at a conference of central bankers and economists at Jackson Hole, Wyo. “Most of the economic policies that support robust economic growth in the long run are outside the province of the central bank,” he said. In other words, that job rests with Congress, where GOP leaders have prepared a sweeping plan to cut tax rates, reduce job-killing regulations and unleash an aggressive trade policy to “sell American goods and services around the world.”

It’s hard to see their plan passing the Democratic-run Senate in this election cycle. But if it doesn’t, that will give Republicans the chance to ask the voters: Who’s really playing politics with the economy?

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.

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